Synthetic Biology: Genetic Engineering v2.0

Richard Feynman beautifully summed up the inquisitive nature of science and its impact on the society as

“It is our capacity to doubt that will determine the future of civilization”.

Genetic engineering alone hasn’t yet been able to convince people of its safety. But, scientists are already coming up with its second edition – Synthetic Biology (The post I wrote on this upcoming field is my most viewed post ever, thanks to my futuristic audience). But, it seems that this second edition, with its scope for citizen involvement, would assure people of the safety of the first.

Engineers, ranging from mechanical to electrical, have standardized tools at their disposal. Standardization allows “ordinary” citizens to get involved and even improve tools through their feedback. Biological engineers, unfortunately, have not able to pull this feat as of yet. Synthetic Biology envisions of a future where genetic parts would be standardized into Bio-Bricks, each such brick translating into a protein of interest. These would enable amazing things (may sound cynical) such as

  • Home-made pathogen detection kits to screen water, food samples that give colour in presence of pathogen (E. chromi: click to see a video)
  • Checking if the canned mutton you eat is all goat
  • Microbiological Art (Yes, a hobby!!)
  • A seed which grows into a tree-house (Haha.. Imagination is the limit)

Ofcourse, tools commonly found in a sophisticated molecular biology lab need to get many orders cheaper before the actual promise of Synthetic Biology can be realised.

Here is a video introducing you to synthetic biology. You can also check this 12-page comic by the pioneer of Synthetic Biology.



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